Galveston County Health District on Dec. 15 confirmed the omicron variant has been identified in two additional COVID-19 cases in county residents.

The new cases include a woman, age range 21-30, who is not vaccinated with no known pre-existing medical conditions and a woman, age range 11-20, who is not vaccinated with a pre-existing medical condition, according to a Dec. 15 media release.

There are now three confirmed omicron variant cases reported in the county, per the release. The first involved a man, age range 41-50, who is immunocompromised and fully vaccinated.

“It is safe to say that omicron is here, as we’ve expected,” Galveston County Local Health Authority Philip Keiser said in the release. “We can safely assume there are more than just the three cases we’ve been notified of due to how transmissible this variant is. It spreads far more quickly than any variant we’ve seen yet, including delta.”

The variant spreads quickly because its doubling time—the time it takes for the number of cases to double—is two to three days, according to the release. The good news, Keiser said in the release, is health officials have the tools they need to fight this variant.

He encouraged residents to get vaccinated, even if they have already contracted COVID-19. Vaccines are recommended for everyone age 5 and older.

Pfizer-BioNTech booster doses are recommended for age 16 and older and Moderna for age 18 and older at least six months or more after the primary vaccine series, per the release. Johnson & Johnson booster doses are recommended for age 18 and older at least two months or more after the primary vaccine.

“We’ve got more than 100,000 residents who are eligible to get their booster dose but haven’t done so,” Keiser said in the release. “We know the efficacy of these vaccines wane over time—faster for some than others. That’s why getting your booster dose is important.”

Keiser also stressed the importance of day-to-day mitigation practices, including masking and social distancing in public spaces, avoiding large crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and getting tested for COVID-19 if experiencing symptoms or exposed to someone who has the virus.

“We need to keep an eye on omicron, but the number of confirmed cases in the county and surrounding area is still low,” Keiser said in the release. “Delta is still the [predominant] strain we’re seeing right now. Delta also started off with a small number of cases and went up little by little each week until it peaked. It remains to be seen if it’s the same with omicron.”

Regionally, two cases of COVID-19 in Houston were confirmed to have been caused by the omicron variant of the coronavirus, officials with the Houston Health Department announced Dec. 10. Texas Children’s Hospital is partnering with the city to administer COVID-19 vaccines Dec. 17.

As the pandemic continues, local essential workers will now be given a voice to improve working conditions: The Harris County Essential Workers Board was established during the Harris County Commissioners Court session Nov. 30.

County dashboard updates

Total weekly case counts, which were near 200 the week of Nov. 28, have remained about the same, according to public health data reported by the Galveston County Health District. A total 159 cases have been reported so far the week of Dec. 12.

Of the reported tests, 9.2% have been positive so far the week of Dec. 12, up slightly from 5% positivity the week of Nov. 28.

There are 20 county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Dec. 16, up from 16 at the end of November. Half of those residents are under age 61, per the GCHD.

Case fatality remains at 1%, and 1,195 cases are active, up from the 1,063 active as of Dec. 1. A total of three more coronavirus deaths have been reported by the GCHD since Dec. 1, down from the four reported Nov. 17-Dec. 1. Of those deaths, one person was fully vaccinated, and two people were not vaccinated, per the GCHD.

As of Dec. 10, there have been 2,243 breakthrough cases in Galveston County, per the GCHD’s Dec. 16 dashboard update. This is an additional 45 new breakthrough cases from those reported as of Nov. 19. COVID-19 cases occurring in people who are fully vaccinated are considered breakthrough cases, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of breakthrough cases equates to an approximate 1% breakthrough rate. More than 215,000 Galveston County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while nearly 195,000 are fully vaccinated, according to the Dec. 16 media release. As of Dec. 1, 189,100 county residents were fully vaccinated.

The county is offering vaccines at indoor and drive-thru clinics as well as booster shots. The GCHD began offering COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11 in early November.

Click here to view the coronavirus dashboard on the health district’s website.